Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ohio "collateral sanctions"

A Columbus Dispatch article this morning says critics of Ohio's new "collateral sanctions" law, passed last summer, are saying those portions of the new law which no longer require inclusion of information the Attorney General's Office maintains for criminal background checks about arrests and charges that didn't result in convictions has some officials worried that employers are being given a false sense of security about applicants, including the Attorney General.

As examples, the article quotes Attorney General DeWine as saying "he has a list of 'horror stories' of background checks, mainly for juveniles, that involved serious crimes that under the new law can't be reported. The law says that juvenile-court convictions can be reported only if they were for aggravated murder, murder or sex crimes in which the youth was labeled a sex offender. DeWine also cited the case of a county children-services agency that requested a background check on someone who turned out to have a 2006 juvenile-court rape conviction. That information couldn't be reported because he hadn't been labeled a sex offender."

"'From a common-sense point of view,' DeWine said, 'if I was looking for a foster parent or looking for someone to work with children or to be with children, I would want to know whether they had been convicted of rape.'"

The article also reports that "under the new law, processing cases in which someone was arrested but not convicted has to be done by hand, which has created a backlog of background checks and costs taxpayers. BCI has racked up about $30,000 in overtime handling those checks since the law took effect last year. Background checks that once took 20 days now require as long as three months, and that caught the attention of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, where background checks have gone from days to weeks, according to spokeswoman Tama Davis.'That could be an issue in Cincinnati, where the state's fourth and last casino opens in March; about 600 employees are still to be hired,' Davis said. The agency, however, is confident that it will hit its hiring deadlines."

The article concludes by noting that the Attorney General’s Office is addressing the problem and asking legislators to amend the law.

"Sen. Bill Seitz, one of the legislation's sponsors, said he caught wind of the attorney general's concerns late in the legislative process last year and is open to revisions, particularly when it comes to people who jumped bond. 'Lawmakers never intended to reward people who never showed up and faced the music,' Seitz said.

Another of the bill's sponsors, though, Sen. Shirley Smith, disagreed, and said the law was serving the purpose it was meant to. "We shouldn't rush to judgment and prohibit a person from going to work when they have not been convicted," she said. "I don’t think we should say a person should not get a chance at employment just because they’re waiting for a court date."

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